Monday November 02, 2015
No Rights in the Matter: Basking in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series Victory
I’m basking. I’ve been basking since last night at approximately 9:30 Pacific Time. In some ways I have no right to bask, since the 2015 Kansas City Royals aren’t my team. Cf., Theodore Roethke’s great poem, “Elegy for Jane (My Student, Thrown by a Horse),” which ends with a profession of love and then this:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover
That’s me with the Royals. I didn’t suffer with this team for games and seasons and decades. I was always aware of them but in an offhand way. My team kept swapping Raul Ibanez with them. He’d do good over there and I’d think, “Well, that’s a waste. We could use him.” Because we had a chance in hell back then, and everyone knew the Royals didn’t have a chance in hell. They were the most chanceless team in baseball. I’d see a guy with a Royals cap and think, “Now there’s a fan, poor bastard.”
It’s an odd thing, choosing a team in the postseason when your team doesn’t make it, and most years mine doesn’t so I’ve had practice. Sometimes you know going in, sometimes your rooting interests develop during a game. Most of the time I root for underdogs or teams that have long been denied. Like most people do.
This year in the American League I wanted Royals over Astros, Blue Jays over Rangers, then Royals over Blue Jays in the ALCS. I got all of that. In the NL, I wanted Cubs over St. Louis and was mixed on Mets/Dodgers. The underdog impulse should’ve had me rooting for the Mets, but I knew the Dodgers, for all its money, were in some ways more hapless than the Mets, who had at least been to the World Series in the last 25 years. So I found myself rooting for the Dodgers, who lost, then I found myself rooting for the Cubs over the Mets, and lost that one, too. And that set up this World Series.
I have to say, even if it had been Royals vs. Cubs, the most long-denied team of all, I still would’ve rooted for the Royals. Part of it is they should’ve won last year. Last October, the Royals were the story, and the San Francisco Giants got in the way of that story, and I wanted a better ending. I hoped to get that this year.
The other part is that I liked them; they were an easy team to like. I liked the way they played: speed, defense, putting the ball in play, not striking out. I liked the players themselves: the calm of Gordon, the fieriness of Hosmer, the smile and joy and “climb on my shoulders” leadership of Perez; the moosiness of Moustakas and the beautiful all-aroundness of Lorenzo Cain. Oh, and in the bullpen, the implacable Wade Davis. The one constant in life is change, but Wade Davis was a bulwark against change. He made sure the score stayed the same. For all the fans who could never root for Mariano Rivera because he represented the team that represented everything wrong with baseball, we now had Wade Davis. Late innings were volatile for a lot of teams but not the Royals. The Royals cured volatility with Wade Davis.
I followed them out of the corner of my eye all year. They were 90 feet from winning it all last year yet hardly anyone picked them to repeat this year. Most pundits didn’t even pick them as a wild card. Last year was seen as a fluke. They thought my Mariners were the team to beat.
By the end of May, the M’s seemed done, and when I checked the box scores I’d do this:
- Did the M’s win? No, crap.
- Did the Yankees win? Shit, yes.
- Are any other AL East teams threatening them? C’mon, losers.
- Oh, and how did the Royals do?
They turned out to be better than everyone thought. Then the playoffs began and they seemed worse than everyone thought. To the Houston Astros, they lost once, twice, and were losing a third game in a best of five series.
Then they seemed amazing.
On Monday, Oct. 12, three weeks ago, I was beginning to reconcile myself with the idea of rooting for the Astros the rest of the way. Or maybe the Blue Jays if they could come back against the Rangers. We wouldn’t get an all-Texas ALCS, would we? Uck.
I was working but had ESPN.com’s gamecast up and kept looking over. Oh, the Royals have a baserunner? Huh, another? Wait, are the bases loaded? Wait, do they have a shot at this?
Here are five postseason games the Royals won this year:
- ALDS Game 4: Down 6-2 in the 8th inning.
- ALCS Game 2: Down 3-0 in the 7th inning.
- World Series Game 1: Down 4-3 in the 9th inning.
- World Series Game 4: Down 3-2 in the 8th inning.
- World Series Game 5: Down 2-0 in the 9th inning.
How often did they do this? This often: I actually began to laugh during last night’s comeback because it was so absurd that it was happening again. But it was. And this is all it took to tie it:
- A walk
- A double
- An infield groundout
- An infield groundout
Oh, and this too:
- One of the ballsiest baserunning moves in World Series history
That’s my general image of the 2015 Royals: sprawled all over homeplate in a ballsy baserunning move. I remember as a kid reading about Enos “Country” Slaughter scoring from first on a single in the 1946 World Series and wondering, “How is that even possible? You can’t do that.” Well, Lorenzo Cain did it twice this postseason, the second time to score the go-ahead run in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS and put the Royals in the World Series. Pundits, or at least Joe Buck, keep saying that Jose Bautista threw to the wrong bag, second, rather than home to prevent Cain from scoring, but he didn’t. If he’d thrown home, Cain wouldn’t have gone and Hosmer would’ve wound up on second, and when Morales singled to center both would’ve scored. It was lose-lose for Bautista, and he chose the right lose. It wasn’t his fault Royals were on the basepaths.
Was that the game I was watching at Six Arms with the dude from Kansas City? No, that was ALCS Game 4. He bought me a shot in the 7th for good luck because that’s what he and his friends would do in the 7th, and you have to keep traditions alive even when you’re on a business trip in Seattle. It seemed to work. His team, our team, scored 4 that inning, 3 in the next, 2 in the 9th. We fist-bumped. After the game, I wished him luck.
Joe Posnanski has a great post-World Series piece on luck and the Kansas City Royals. He writes about James Bond’s luck in the movies and says the Kansas City Royals are James Bond. He leaves out “After years of being Don Knotts,” but that’s implied. That’s known. We all knew that. That’s part of the charm of this Royals team: everything they’ve overcome. Yeah, sure, that history didn’t belong to these players to overcome but it still did. When you get drafted/signed by the Kansas City Royals/Seattle Mariners it means something different than getting drafted/signed by the New York Yankees. It’s like moving into a crumbling apartment building with a low ceiling and no light rather than some upper west side penthouse with great views. It’s gonna effect you.
But somehow it all worked out. And now it’s mid-day of Day 1 of the Hot Stove League and I’m still basking even though I have no rights in the matter. I just like this team. What can I say? For any team that was never my team, this is one helluva team.
- Joe Posnanski, “Long May They Reign: After three decades, the Royals are the champions of baseball”
- Andy McCullough, “Royals are World Series Champs”
- Roger Angell, “Hard Times”
- Reeves Wiedeman, “Royal Family”
- Sam Miller, Baseball Prospectus, “One Inning, Two Decisions, One Champion”
- Bob Sullivan, “Did the Royals Just Kill Moneyball and Help You Get a Raise?”